25.10.2017 | Molecular Interaction Ecology

Workshop on Current challenges in Eco-metabolomics

Eco-Metabolomics Workshop Group

Eco-Metabolomics Workshop Group

From the 16th to 18th October, 34 experts from Ecology, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics joined together at the iDiv core centre to discuss the current challenges and pitfalls of applying Metabolomics in ecological studies.
The metabolome is the sum of all metabolites within a living organism and in ‘Eco-Metabolomics’, wild species, for example in the Jena Experiment or the Biodiversity Exploratories, are studied in an untargeted approach to discover putative metabolites and to elucidate their ecological function. This is still very challenging because non-model organisms have a high number of novel compounds (“unknown unknowns”), which are hard to identify because of the lack of reference compounds. Furthermore, peak detection and data processing needs to be optimized in order to deal with the high variabilities occurring in ecological experiments. Within the iDiv consortium several independent bioinformatic groups are developing software and workflows which will facilitate the analysis and identification of metabolites based on their chemical properties. At the same time ecologist are highly interested in applying these software tools and workflows in their research. However, non-bioinformaticians often struggle with the complexity of the software. The aim of the workshop was to bring together experts in the different fields and to foster the collaboration within iDiv and other institutes.
During the workshop, the participants explored the different bioinformatic tools which are currently available for metabolomics data processing and identification. A large part of the workshop was dedicated to hands-on sessions where small groups worked on data sets provided by the participants. They discussed the experimental design, analytical platforms, peak detection algorithms, tested data processing workflows and multivariate statistical analyses.
Another focus of the workshop was the deposition of metabolomics data in recommended open access repositories such as MetaboLights, which is a database for experimental raw data and associated metadata. In a live demo session, the participants learned how to create a study and upload their own data into the database. Also, a new type of publication format – descriptors for datasets, e.g. Nature Scientific Data – was discussed. It focuses on helping others reuse data and facilitates data synthesis – one of the core concepts of the sDiv centre.
The participants concluded that such workshops are needed on a more regular basis to frequently exchange experiences with Eco-metabolomics data analysis. This not only helps to continuously improve the available tools but also to adapt them to newly emerging questions appearing in the highly dynamic field of Eco-Metabolomics.  


Dr. Alexander Weinhold
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Research group “Molecular Interaction Ecology”
Phone: +49 (0) 341 9733163
Email: alexander.weinhold@idiv.de

Dr. Kristian Peters
Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry
Department Stress and Developmental Biology
Phone: +49 (0) 345 5582 1475
Email: Kristian.Peters@ipb-halle.de

Dr. Anja Worrich
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Ecometabolomics platform
Phone: +49 (0) 341 9733233
Email: anja.worrich@idiv.de

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